Friday, 29 April 2011

Draft Day Decisions

And so to my second sports related blog in fairly quick succession and this one is focused on the NFL and the current goings on there!

To start with, a note on the CBA, it’s still not been agreed! However a court has granted an injunction to lift the lockout, which means the players can return to team facilities again. There are so many different bits about the injunction though, and I won’t claim to know how it all works. But from what I understand the league year will start next week and the NFL will seemingly run on the 2010 rules. The draft was affected in the sense that players could not be traded for picks, a pick could only be traded for another pick (not necessarily the same year though). With that I would have thought trades would be less frequent in this draft, but as I’ll note later it didn’t stop the teams from shifting picks around.

I’ll admit I hadn’t seen much of the 2011 Draft Prospects before the first round of the draft took place last night, but I’ll detail some of the picks below and any thoughts I have on each one.

First on the clock were the Carolina Panthers, and it wasn’t a surprise as they selected Cam Newton, a quarterback out of Auburn. A lot of the pre-draft articles had Newton going to Carolina, so it was pretty much expected. Whether he can prove himself to be the franchise guy the team needs is obviously yet to be determined! Denver grabbed Von Miller, a Linebacker out of Texas, with the 2nd pick, which was closely followed by Buffalo selecting Alabama Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus. An interesting selection was made at 4, as the Bengals looked to improve their receivers by bringing in AJ Green. The Bengals had TO and Ocho last season and didn’t make an impact, maybe clearing one or both of them out for the rookie and a free agent could change their fortunes in that respect.

Some of the picks will be just listed, mainly due to my lack of input on such matters! That starts with Arizona selecting Cornerback Patrick Peterson at 5! Atlanta had the 6th pick from Cleveland, using it on WR Julio Jones, whilst San Francisco grabbed DE Aldon Smith at 7. I’ve read a few opinions elsewhere and already some are saying that the 8th pick by the Titans could be a mistake, with QB Jack Locker being taken too early. The same has also been said for the Vikings taking QB Christian Ponder at 12, but you never know, these guys may just step up to the plate and make the difference needed? Just one more QB was selected this year in the first round, with that being Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri, who was taken at 10 by Jacksonville. This was a guy who some mock drafts had actually had going earlier, although to be honest being drafted first round shouldn’t be a disappointment for any rookie!

Generally the next block of the first round was defensively focused, with the Texans, Lions, Rams, Redskins and Chargers all selecting Defensive Ends or Defensive Tackles. Some trades took place later in the round; with the most significant being the New Orleans Saints trading up with the Patriots for the 28th pick to get Running Back Mark Ingram. Offensive Linebackers dominated the final half of the draft, with Mike Pouncey going to Miami, Nate Solder going to New England, Anthony Castonzo to Indianapolis, Danny Watkins to Philadelphia, James Carpenter to Seattle, and Gabe Carimi to Chicago.

My focus though was on the 30th selection, that of the New York Jets, and to be honest many of us had absolutely no idea who would be picked. Would the team trade down, up or just grab the best guy available at the time? Well that question was answered at around 4am this morning, as when on the clock the New York Jets used the 30th pick of the 2011 Draft to select Muhammad Wilkerson, a Defensive Tackle out of Temple. A decent pick given the players available and he will add something to the defensive line, giving it depth and some extra aggressiveness. Jets fans should be pleased with the pick, and from what I read already, it looks like they are! Now the focus goes to tonight and the following rounds, will we trade up for another pick?

The Playoffs Are Here!

Hello there one and all, it’s about time I caught up with a few things going on in the world of sports, so what follows will be two blogs in fairly quick succession! The second will be about the NFL, but first up is a catch up on the NBA Playoffs!

The first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs is coming to a close already, with 16 teams going down to just 8 for the Conference Semi Finals. Over in the West the Oklahoma Thunder have seen off the Denver Nuggets, Dallas have beaten Portland, and the Lakers sent the Hornets home to all get one step closer to the finals. The only first round series undecided yet is between the 1 seed San Antonio Spurs and 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies, where the underdogs are winning 3-2 overall! The East though are all set for the semis, with my Chicago Bulls beating the Indiana Pacers to set up a series against the Atlanta Hawks (who saw off the Orlando Magic), and the Boston Celtics will take on the Miami Heat after the teams beat the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers respectively.

Miami are one of the favourites without question, if only because of their free agent pick up last summer! For those that don’t know, Miami kept hold of Dwayne Wade, and in the process managed to pick up both Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Now they haven’t been superb during the season, but people will find it hard to look past them or the Celtics for the top East spot. Of course, I have a different view, that of the Chicago Bulls going all the way. Chicago have had their best season since the 1997-98 championship year, finishing the regular season as the top seeded team and having the best record in the entire NBA. The team has been solid throughout, picking up huge wins when needed and being very tight on defence. The first round against Indiana wasn’t easy, as the Pacers have been determined and tough all year. However the quality won through in the end, as Chicago won the series in 5 games.

So this sets up a series against the Hawks, who the Bulls beat twice in the three encounters they had during the regular season. Chicago should be able to get past Atlanta in much the same fashion, especially with home advantage in their favour. Derrick Rose (who in my eyes should be league MVP) needs to get started quickly, and the rest of the team need to follow suit. It is a young Bulls squad, but they have the talent to make a huge impact on this postseason. The real test will be in the Conference Finals, as the Bulls will face either Boston or Miami, two quality teams who will surely raise their game as they progress in the playoffs.

Possible opponents in the Finals for Chicago? Well I would say its tough to see past the Spurs, but they are an aging team who are still struggling against Memphis. The only other option in my eyes would be the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that is still being led superbly by Kobe Bryant. He has a solid team around him and they can always do the job when it comes to the big games. Dallas can surprise a few people as well at times, but I can’t see them going all the way this season.

So to finish, the Chicago Bulls are my pick for getting to the Finals from the Eastern Conference, unsurprisingly! The second round of the playoffs start on Monday for Chicago at home to Atlanta, and I will be cheering on the Bulls as I have done all season long!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Deceptively Optimistic

It’s that time once again for me to focus a blog on my beloved West Ham United. It’s been a while since I’ve ranted about the team, so I thought that with the time left in the season dwindling away it was prime time to bring them up again!

Being a West Ham fan isn’t easy, it never has been! The team will lift you up to the highest heights, and then drop you right back down to earth with a huge bump, then bring you right back up again, and so on! And generally there are more lows than highs, and this season follows that pattern! Recently there was a huge high around the club, after victories against Burnley (FA Cup), Liverpool and Stoke (Premiership). But the return to earth happened shortly after with a loss to Stoke in the FA Cup after playing a quite poor game of football.

A massive draw away to Tottenham then came our way, which raised hopes a little bit, however since then the team have played without passion and collapsed at home to Man Utd and away to Bolton. The league tells you all you need to know, bottom three with a shite goal difference, and optimism from the fans almost non-existent.

And that brings me to today, West Ham are at home to Aston Villa, a team hovering above the relegation dogfight, but still not 100% safe and clear. News from the club is that the player of the season Scott Parker is out for this game, and probably the following 2 as well (away to Chelsea and Man City). Things don’t look too positive for the encounter given how the majority of the team has performed so far this season, but 3 points is a must from this game.

I don’t want to be downbeat through this blog though; Premiership safety is still well within reach. The team needs to put in some massive performances and earn some impressive results over the next few weeks, and I along with every other Hammer out there will be backing them and cheering them on. A win today, depending on other results, could get us a spot or two out of the bottom 3, and the psychological benefits of that alone are immeasurable. Add to that a win without the player everyone seems to have been relying on, and it shows that the team can cope with the adversity and make the difference!

Now that I look back, it seems as though I am very pessimistic about West Hams chances of survival, when I actual fact I am fairly optimistic. 3 points today from Villa, at least 1 point from the next two tough away games, then winning our remaining home games will see us home and dry! I do believe, I will believe until things are impossible, as although West Ham drag us through the mud sometimes, they do raise us right back up without warning! So to finish, quite simply, COME ON YOU IRONS!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Much Needed Time Off

Blog time once again, and this one will enlighten you as to how I’ve spent my recent 12 days away from work, which to be honest have been fantastic! It was just a shame that it all had to end and I had to come back to work this past Monday.

My leave officially started after working an early shift on Tuesday 29th March, and it started by going to Wembley for my first full team England game. I’ve been to Wembley a few times before, but those were for NFL games, so I was quite excited to be finally seeing the full England team for the first time. The game was England vs. Ghana, and to be honest it was a bit of a second string England team on the night. However that didn’t detract from the atmosphere there, as it was absolutely electric. The game didn’t disappoint either, as it was end to end, and the Ghanaians put up one hell of a fight. It finished 1-1, and that was a fair result when all was said and done. Really enjoyable experience and one that I will be keen to replicate in the future!

After a day of doing bugger all, I ventured south of the river down to Horley to see two friends from work. Since I started at LOROL both Duncan and Helen have been good friends and they recently had a baby boy, Jack. I took a bit of time to head down there and visit them all, and really enjoyed seeing them. For a baby Jack is a lanky little fella, but it’s to be expected really with tall parents like those two! Also had the pleasure of seeing the old boss Louisa, who thankfully picked me up from the station, and remains great friends with them (she was in charge of all 3 of us when I first started!).

The next day saw me and Gemma head up to Glasgow, but all of that was covered in the previous blog entry! Upon returning to Canvey Island, very little was done for the first day! Tuesday I went round my brothers for the afternoon/night, where we spent the time drinking, playing ps3 and wii games, and watching TV! It’s not too often that me and my brother spend a bit of quality time together, so it was good to do! Wednesday, after going to see my dad during the afternoon, I spent the evening playing Darts against a bloke who used to work for me, Lee. Now I’ve never played him before, so I didn’t know what to expect, and after going 2-0 down I was a bit worried to be honest! Thankfully things turned my way after that, and through 28 games of darts I finally won 16-12!

And that was it really, apart from this past Saturday as I went to see my local non-league team play, Concord Rangers. They took on Horsham, and were clearly the better side throughout. The away team were dirty bastards, committing countless fouls, and their skipper was lucky to last as long as he did, before being sent off midway through the second half. Final score was 2-0 to Concord, and it was a fully deserved result for the only team on Canvey!

I should really touch on the events taking place at Upton Park, but I feel that it would take up a whole post, and that will follow within the next few days! Thanks for reading this far!

Monday, 4 April 2011

A Wonderful Distillery Experience

I had typed this blog entry out on my phone during my train journey home from Scotland yesterday, however due to technical issues it failed to upload and I lost the whole thing! So here is a second attempt at writing why I have had a fantastic weekend!

First a bit of background, and regular readers would know that I am a member of a whisky-based social networking website called Connosr.com. Well recently they held a random draw of members to attend a special event they were putting on at the Glengoyne Distillery just outside of Glasgow, and I was one of the lucky names drawn out of the hat. So after a bit of consideration I invited my other half Gemma so that we could make a bit of a weekend of it, and this past Friday we made our way up on the train. After a total of 5 or 6 hours of journey time we reached the hotel, called the Kirkhouse Inn located just outside Milngavie near Glasgow, and we both were pleasantly surprised. The place was very high quality, and considering we only paid £50 a night it was great value!

First on the to do list though was to head to the event hosted by Glengoyne at the distillery 5 minutes down the road. Upon arrival the Connosr.com founders Jean-Luc and Pierre along with the staff of the distillery greeted us, and were all given a dram of their standard 10yr bottling. I’ve previously emptied a bottle of the 10yr so knew what to expect with that one! After a brief introduction to the Distillery we were all given a VIP tour of the facility, which was excellently handled by the knowledgeable and friendly staff! Upon returning to the function room we were then handed a dram of their 12yr Cask Strength bottling, which lacked the smoothness I was familiar with from their other expressions. A small buffet was provided, and they we proceeded to sample the rest of their range. First was the 14yr bottling, which can only be bought in Marks and Spencer, then the 17yr (which I’ve already emptied a bottle of) followed by the 21yr. These were the "standard" bottles, and what followed were two quite special drams. First was the 23yr Single Cask bottling, of which there are only a handful of bottles actually left in existence! That was wonderful, but the next one was really special, the 40yr expression, which normally retails at £3,750 a bottle, was passed round for all to try, and they even allowed us to finish the entire bottle!

Of course this wasn’t all for nothing, as part of the experience the members of Connosr.com had to relay some of their thoughts regarding the drams to the Whiskypod. Now this is a video booth that the website have used at Whisky events previously, of which I have become a regular user, so I had no qualms about doing a few more this night! When all was said and done, I had recorded 4 and many others had done the same! It was a spectacular evening, and huge thanks go out to all the staff at Glengoyne for allowing the Connosr.com members to be a part of such a great event. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful throughout, and could not be faulted. And of course thanks also go to Jean-Luc and Pierre of Connosr.com for putting this thing together.

I was also very impressed with Gemma, who in all honesty is not a whisky drinker, but she sampled every single one of the drams, and probably came up with one of the tasting notes of the night! It wasn’t her normal thing, but her, along with everyone else, had a fantastic time that evening. And to finish, I bought a bottle of the 21yr (for £90) and got a bottle of the 10yr for free, couldn’t argue with that deal!

The following day was payback time though, and both Gem and me went wandering around the city of Glasgow. Although it isn’t exactly the most touristy of places, it was a lovely day and we ended up seeing some wonderful sights, if only because of the drive into the city given to us by Eric and Laura, a couple of fellow Connosr.com members who kindly offered to drive us into town (and gave us a tour in the process)! A bit of shopping was done, and we went for lunch in the world famous Bon Accord pub, which has a huge selection of whiskies. This was a fact I should have thought of before ordering chilli for lunch, which burnt my mouth and would have altered the taste of any dram I would have wanted to try! All in all though we had a wonderful day around Glasgow though, and although our feet ached like hell afterwards it was worth it.

Back to the hotel for dinner, and we had worked up an appetite, so we both decided that as we were on our holidays it was time to spoil ourselves! We spent £25 each on our dinners, a 20oz mixed grill containing a lamb chop, pork chop, gammon steak, fillet steak and a venison sausage, complimented with sauté potatoes and a fried duck egg! It was an amazing meal, every bit of meat was superb without any gristle or fat, and it was worth the money! The following day we headed home, which due to the closure of the West Coast mainline would take a bit longer than the journey up! And that’s where my final thanks go to Gemma, as she managed both the journey up and the longer trip back without biting my head off due to her wanting a cigarette! Ok the journey home she bought a nicorette patch to help, but even so I think she did very well! And with that, I come to the end of the tale of the weekend, thank you for reading, and thanks again to all at Glengoyne and Connosr.com for a superb event!

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